from top to bottom, left to right:
Bach - from the “Goldberg Variations”
Vivaldi - “Summer,” and “Autumn”
Glass - “Koyaanisqatsi”
Mozart - “Symphony No. 41”
Martin Wattenberg, “The Shape of Song” (2001). Creative Commons license.
and finally, more of Wattenberg’s work can be found here.
Ta-Nehisi Coates has started an interesting debate on disability and personal perceptions of social justice up over at the Atlantic. It’s prompted by a comment, and written to promote more discussion. Jump in!
His post raises some great questions about the ways we talk about disability from the outside, and the realities of building a life and a self around non-normative physical parameters. We currently build physical environments that are wholly centered around physical “standards,” leaving disabled parties to compensate in whatever way they best can (with very little support institutionally or socially), or to live trapped in an endless campaign for access, which moves too slowly and frequently in the wrong direction.
This is a terrible situation, that cloaks another equally dismal habit of mind. Thinking about about these adjustments as “compensatory” (as I just did) is quite limiting, actually, for everyone involved. People with disabilities are perhaps the largest untapped resource for building, learning, and mobility innovation we have, and we never look in that direction when discussing design globally. In marginalizing people with disabilities (building them out of work spaces, relegating them to sub-standard health care, discussing disability only in the context of “charity,” etc.), we cheat our communities at large out of a wide range of invaluable perspectives on not only social justice, but on innovation in engineering, education, entertainment, you name it.
My question, in response to Coates’s post: why aren’t people with disabilities dominating hacking forums and ruling Maker Faire? Why aren’t they designing our schools, our cities, and our digital media? If you pay any attention to digital communities engaging debates about disability and access, you see all the skills of the new DIY movement and more. Much more, actually. Conversely, when you consult DIY sites you find an environment almost wholly dominated by people without disabilities.
I would tentatively suggest the answer is simply that we limit access to these forums, or we lack awareness of the obvious in recruiting, or we’re so disinterested in issues like (as one of many examples) pain management that we reduce opportunity through a culture of neglect.
This is all speculation on my part; issues of accessibility are not my speciality, so I’d love to hear from anyone with responses. Translation: check my privilege, people.
Covers from the Poetry Society of America’s chapbook series. The society is currently selecting submissions for its 2013 contest.
I want to share two short videos that are both reflections of craft and process. Both come from design studios that I love very much and follow very closely. They couldn’t be more different when it comes to process, and it has left me thinking about what craft means, what design demands, and what is of value in a completed object.
The first comes from Nervous System, a design studio in Massachusetts. They represent a creative movement powered by devices like 3D printers, which (I suspect) have had a huge impact on design and material production, especially with regard to skill, material, and timing.
I don’t at all agree with what Louis-Rosenberg’s claim that their work is unique because of the unpredictability of their material. In handcraft materials are always unpredictable; cellulose and protein fibers are like the animal and plant organisms that produce them. There is something else, I think, about Nervous System’s process that is unique, something that relates both to modeling and to production. They’re an example of what can be done now that 3D printing has changed production for those who have access; they seem to me like a better example of what might be possible if we make technology (and access) more democratic.
The second comes from Andrea Donnelly, a local weaver whose work is on display now at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond. It’s a longer video, but well worth the time, especially if you have any interest in textiles. Donnelly’s weaving is large-scale and incredibly time consuming. It does not, as Jessica predicts in the video above, take years to complete a piece, but it is hard to estimate the hours, especially once you notice that in many cases, Donnelly is weaving a project, dyeing it, unravelling it, and then weaving it again into two projects using the warp and the weft separately:
When I realized exactly what Donnelly’s process was, I was a little terrified and a little in love. Weaving one instance of her works would take an intimidating amount of time. Weaving, unweaving, and reweaving an entire installation is a bit unthinkable. I rather worry that viewers can’t appreciate the magnitude of what she’s doing here. Part, or perhaps a majority of the piece is the private performance we glimpse in the video above; it’s something you can’t see in a gallery, but it is central to the work.
How does process impact concept and final product? Does it matter at all, if the audience doesn’t have that information?
“Nervous System & Growing Designs with Shapeways 3D Printing.” Shapeways. Youtube.com. 16 Oct. 2012. 28 Oct. 2012.
Abbott, Edward A. Flatland: A Romance of Many Directions. Revised ed. London : Seeley and Co., 1884.
Posted over at FlowingData: “New York University graduate student Josh Begley grabbed 4,916 satellite images of prisons via the Google Maps API and put them all in one place.” Both FD and Begley present the project as data representation, which I don’t quite follow. These are images, that give us no concrete information with which to work. The data on US prisons, of course, is astounding and very difficult to represent for adequate impact. Communicating our exponentiating incarceration rates or the social and economic impacts this system would be a nearly impossible task.
We frequently consider mapping to be data representation, and there is a very slight sense that these images function as micro-maps. The project would be fascinating paired with density mappings of prisons across the US, but as it stands each image is detached from its location, standing alone as an aerial view of the prison itself. The inner structures, of course, are wholly off limits to us as viewers, so even as architectural representations the images are frustratingly limited.
Begley’s project, however, a tremendously powerful design narrative. We have a wealth of information about city growth and urban design, and on how design can impact or narrate the quality of life of a location’s inhabitants. Armed with the limited information that these spaces house a huge population of people whose mobility is totally restricted, a small number of people with free range, and a very restricted number of visitors, we can interpret a lot about the philosophy of these spaces and of the culture that produces them. In this way, this collection is of incredible value, and will surface in this coming fall seminar’s unit on Richmond history and urban planning.
I’m hoping to design next year as a service optional course that examines urban social problems and incarceration alongside personal histories. It now looks likely that I will be teaching with Open Minds this coming spring semester. Later this month I’ll be blogging about the structure of two courses: my freshman seminar and a service learning poetry class that will meet in the city jail.
“One in One Hundred: Behind Bars in America.” Public Safety Performance Project, The Pew Center on the States. 28 Feb. 2008.
Winter Growth at Twin Lakes
As a side effect of not registering for the tessellation course I wanted to take at VCU I’ve been thinking a lot about visual patterns, especially as they might translate to something like quilting or weaving. Winter growth is great for seeing patterns, and this winter was tremendously forgiving for growing things.
This summer I’d like to start translating these into weaveable tapestry designs, possibly using lichen as dyes for the project.
Images my own, photographed this winter at a trip to Twin Lakes.